No silhouette is more emblematic of menswear’s gradual acceptance of the sneaker than the German Army Trainer, a model which has long been a staple in the rotations of those in the know. It is a shoe with history and one which sparks contentious debate about both its origins and the purest reincarnation of a decades-old classic. The GAT, as it is colloquially known, may be best known in fashion circles as one of Maison Margiela’s best-known replica designs—the Margiela version is literally called the "Replica"—but the silhouette’s roots extend back to the 1970s, long before the Belgian designer was parading sneakers down runways.

Before diving into the shoe’s murky history, it’s important to establish what exactly makes a German Army Trainer. Traditionally GATs feature white leather uppers and gum rubber soles, with grey or off-white suede detailing on the toe box and the side panel featuring a small leather overlay.

As the shoe’s name implies, the German Army Trainer’s roots lie with the German Army, though the exact origins are a little more convoluted. In the late 1970s, the West German Army was seeking new training shoes for its soldiers and, given the sheer size of the standing force, it was a lucrative contract to be had. As a result, two of Germany’s biggest sportswear and sneaker manufacturers set their sights on outfitting the Bundeswehr: adidas and Puma.

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